Château de Belcastel
Built a thousand years ago into the rock, the Château de Belcastel overlooks one of the most beautiful medieval villages of Aveyron. In this former stopping place on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, by the banks of the Aveyron, stone-built houses and roofs tiled with "lauzes" stone slabs rise in tiers at the foot of the fortified castle that was remarkably well restored in the late 1970s by famous architect Fernand Pouillon.
Through the visit you'll understand its architecture and history.
Although the Château remains a private residence, its owners welcome the public to tour the fortress, which is both an historical landmark and a sprawling art gallery.
Examples of this unique experience; the walls have an average thickness of one metre. A watchtower supplements the castle defense.
Surrounded by round towers from where one could shoot the assailant, you'll note the ingenious locking system with cons-balance weight. At the heart of the castle, the courtyard with its square tower, which rises to 38 metres in height. Built at the early 13th century, you'll discover two chapels; a lower chapel and a chapel built for the lord. The lower chapel is a pre-Romanesque building (IX or X century) with a single nave retaining some fresco fragments.
The work of Fernand Pouillon sparked initiatives. Many surrounding houses have been restored since.
The village of Belcastel has been listed as part of the "most beautiful villages of France".
The year 1040 marked the first mention of the Château de Belcastel. It was then a primitive fortress. But the site has been occupied earlier; remains of fortifications, called Roc Anglars, were found downstream. It would have been of Carolingian origin. The term "Belcastel" means "beautiful castle", or "great castle" and by extension "castle".
Several families have lived on Belcastel site over the centuries.
The first known family lived on the site until the late 13th century.
Then the Saunhac family took possession.
During the 100 year war, the castle passed into the hands of Mérigot Marchez, a local chief of poor reputation. its occupation spanned over 27 years.
Finally Jean (John) III d'Armagnac, bought it back as a gift to Guillaume de Saunhac. The estate of the first Alzias Saunhac transformed the castle as a fortress. He built a church on the left bank, and a bridge crossing the Aveyron river.
Another major character is his first son Jean. Cousin to King Charles VIII of France by marriage released the Count of Armagnac and children, prisoners in Carcassonne, by paying a ransom of 9000 gold crowns. The Morlhon family, in the late 16th century acquired the castle.
Time passed, and the castle got into different owners' hands.
Nonetheless, Belcastel's fate rebounds in the mid-70s, a ruin then. France Arudy, a notorious local erudit, decided to start its restoration. Under the architect Fernand Pouillon's lead, Belcastel restoration started.
The work was completed in 1982.
Thank you Patrick McCloskey for providing numerous photos.